smart spending

4 ways to protect teens from ID theft

Online gaming communities that use the Xbox and PlayStation game systems also can be dangerous for teens. You can play with people all over the world, and scammers may use fake identities in these communities to get personal information such as an account password or email address. Teens should be warned not to give out personal information online while playing these video games.

Need help educating your teen? Lots of online resources -- even banks and credit unions -- have primers and videos. For example, Palo Alto, Calif.-based Stanford Federal Credit Union offers tips for preventing teen ID theft. The San Diego-based Identity Theft Resource Center website also has tutorials directed at teens.

You can use a teen checking account as a teaching point. Helping your child open a checking account is a great starting point for educating them, Lewis says. "Show them how to protect data like account numbers and checking balances on a daily basis," he says.

Check their Facebook page. As enthusiastic social networkers, teens unwittingly may share vital information, such as their birthday, address or phone number, on Facebook and other social media venues. Those are some of the same details used to verify your identity on financial documents.

"Kids shouldn't create big mistakes that take years to put back together," Levin says.

Scrutinize their checking account balances. Kids typically don't check their banking records, so parents should suggest downloading their bank's mobile app to check their accounts daily, Lewis says. Parents also can follow up by checking their kids' online or monthly statements.

They should look for account charges by unknown entities. "You want to know how they're spending their money anyway and to make sure that no one else is using their accounts," Lewis says.

Ratchet up security. Teens don't always use proper password security on computers or smartphones, either forgoing security measures entirely or coming up with dumb, easy-to-uncover passwords for computers and laptops, Levin says. Or they leave their smartphones lying around.

And it's not just the teens who are at risk. "Parents can be significantly damaged if their home computer is breached and tax information is on it," IDT911.com's Levin says.

One solution is to put parental blocks on computers used by teens, says Xavier Epps, a financial adviser for XNE Financial Advising LLC in Woodbridge, Va. Parental blocks are online tools that limit computer use, blocking specific websites. LifeLock Inc., of Tempe, Ariz., monitors a person's identity for a monthly or yearly fee, but it can be set up to cover the family, too, he says.

Lewis advises to help your child download password-protection apps so no one can steal financial data, and to instruct teens not to give out their passwords to anyone. "Teens are notorious for sharing their online passwords," he says.

Using preventive measures now is worth it to avoid financial pain later.

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